Granville Stuart’s overlooked Oregon Chinuk Wawa, and potential benefits to Grand Ronde

granville stuart

(Image credit: Wikipedia)

Sam Johnson had a brilliant insight: you have to examine every Chinook Jargon dictionary in detail.

Johnson’s 1978 dissertation reached an extremely helpful realization that way. He discovered that the vast majority of “Chinook dictionaries” published(*) in the last 200 years form tight clusters of mutual influence. (Plagiarism, that is. Old-fashioned stealin’.) Thus,, they amount to much less material than you’d have thought.

(*) “Published” is the key word. The hitherto scarcely studied mountains of unpublished Jargon documentation are, as a rule, original and unique stuff. That’s why I specialize in finding and studying them, and significantly expanding on our previous understandings of Chinuk Wawa.

One Jargon item that was published, but that I’ve come to realize almost nobody has seen, is a book by Granville Stuart (1834-1918) titled “Montana As It Is” (New York: G.B. Westcott, 1865; republished 1973 by Arno Press of NYC in their Far Western Frontier series).

My acquaintance with Stuart’s book, and its pretty sizeable Chinuk Wawa vocabulary section, was pretty much limited to what I remembered Sam Johnson writing about it: that it “appears to be a copy of the third edition” of F.N. Blanchet’s dictionary (originally 1856). Johnson’s only further comment (this is on page 78 of his dissertation) is that compared with Blanchet’s 3rd, “It contains the 90-sentence conversation and some of the introductory remarks found in most editions, but not the Lord’s Prayer which is found in later editions.”

A happenstance led to my questioning this.

I’ve noticed, in the incredibly useful “Appendix A: Master File” of all the Jargon words in a large number of dictionaries that Johnson examined, a word for ‘dark’ (as at night)  that I only knew as kʰíyəp from the Grand Ronde Tribes’ 2012 dictionary, is previously known from just one source…

…”Montana As It Is”! He spells it keyʹ-sep, in what I take as an innocuous typographical error typical of the era when typesetters worked from cursive-handwriting manuscripts.

Now, if this vocabulary of Stuart’s is just a ripoff from Blanchet, how can this be?

I went back and checked, and sure enough I find no trace of this word in Blanchet. (Admittedly I checked Blanchet’s 1869 5th edition, but I suspect no enormous changes had occurred. Johnson makes no comments on this subject.)

Doing some more comparing, I see substantial differences between Blanchet’s and Stuart’s material. Really interesting ones.

  • Stuart much expands on Blanchet’s single-sentence “Rules for Pronunciation”.
  • Despite leaving out some of Blanchet’s words (like elamí ‘alms’), Stuart adds other expressions, like
    • coat ‘dress (a woman’s)’
    • clatʹ-ta-wa kahʹ-kah nanʹ-age icʹ-ta ‘hunt (to)’
    • le yob / ma-sachʹ-a ta-manʹ-on-is ‘devil’
    • kwahʹ-tle iskʹ-um ‘hold fast’ (and this reflects the typically Lower Columbia and Oregon dialect word q’wétɬ ‘tight’; Stuart would be the only person not previously known to have spoken that dialect to report using this word)
  • Stuart modifies nearly all of Blanchet’s spellings, in what I suspect is an effort to reflect the pronunciations he personally learned while in far northern California and southwest Oregon from 1852-1857. An example is the aforementioned le yob, which contrasts with Blanchet’s de-aub.
  • Stuart also add six pages containing 98 etymological and ethnographic “Explanatory Notes”, many of which are attached to words that he has added to Blanchet’s stock. For instance, coat crossreferences to his Note 29, ” ‘Coat’ is old English, it being common in the ‘good old times’ to speak of a ‘woman’s coats,’ instead of her dress.”

The balance of these observations inclines me to see “Montana As It Is” as Stuart’s previously unacknowledged original contribution of firsthand Oregon Chinuk Wawa.

Since it derives from the Rogue River region — where Stuart in fact participated on the US side in the Rogue River War of 1855 — it’s highly relevant to the history of Grand Ronde Chinuk Wawa.

Stuart’s material may provide, among other things, a clue to the “obscure origin” of kʰíyəp, as the Grand Ronde dictionary’s etymological comment terms it. Because he knew this rare Jargon word from his pre-reservation-era Rogue River area experiences, this may suggest that we should look for its source in the languages of that area. (Instead of the somewhat better-known Chinookan, Salish, and Kalapuyan, for example. I see three different roots for ‘dark’ in Lower Chinookan, but none match this word.)

It will just require painstaking, detailed examination of the fine points of contrast between Stuart’s and Blanchet’s vocabularies, and some delving into underresearched languages like Takelma and Oregon Coast Athabaskan. The potential benefits in terms of understanding the formation of Grand Ronde’s unique creole tribal Chinuk Wawa should be noteworthy.

Did I mention, Hire A Linguist? 🙂